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SD Senate votes to open up high school activities association

PIERRE -- The South Dakota High School Activities Association would be forced to follow state laws on open meetings and public records under legislation approved Wednesday by the state Senate.

Senators voted 29-5 requiring that public school boards can delegate their authority on interscholastic events to a group that follows those transparency laws.

The association has maintained it is a private, nonprofit organization whose members also include non-public schools.

SB 90 now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration. The association’s board adopted a formal policy earlier this month that it would follow the open-meeting laws.

But Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg, said the association board’s action shows why the state law is needed.

As recently as January the association board and its managers had refused to provide meeting documents to school officials and members of the public.

State law requires that meeting documents be available unless they deal with a matter that will be handled in executive session.

Brown, the bill’s prime sponsor, noted that the association’s employees participate in South Dakota’s public pension system and the Legislature set the association’s concussion policy in law.

“This legislation is overdue,” said Sen. Bill Van Gerpen, R-Tyndall. “I think it’s a step forward in openness.”

Voting against the bill were Sen. Jim Bradford, D-Pine Ridge; Democratic Sen. Billie Sutton of Burke; and Republicans Phil Jensen of Rapid City, Chuck Jones of Flandreau and Larry Rhoden of Union Center.